The right lambs thrive indoors

Finishing lambs indoors has become less popular in recent years as margins have become tighter, but it can still be done profitably, so long as the right lambs are bought and they are given time to grow before being finished.

Winchcombe, Glos-based Roger Scudamore has been finishing lambs intensively for the past 15 years and believes it is the best way to achieve the finish required by the modern market.

“It can be difficult to get a finish on some lambs without a period of indoor finishing, particularly as the only other way we have of finishing them is on stubble turnips.”

Early in the season Mr Scudamore reckons to finish most lambs off roots, but as time goes on he finds it easier to introduce some concentrate feed to reduce finishing time.

“But you have to be careful to ensure lambs are big enough before introducing concentrate feed, otherwise they become fit without having the weight needed.”

Carcass weights of Continental cross lambs from Sudeley Hill Farm last year ranged between 17 and 20kg deadweight, with the average at just over 19kg.

And while many farmers have moved away from intensive finishing due to increased feed costs, he believes ad-lib finishing indoors is still worthwhile.

“Lambs eat about 1kg a head a day when they are housed and, with most only having a three-week finishing period, that totals about 21kg.

“With concentrate costing somewhere close to 110/t, a lamb gets through about 2.20 in feed.

There are other costs, too, including straw, both for bedding and forage, and labour, but all in all it is still worthwhile.

But to ensure feed intakes are maintained fresh, clean water is a priority,” he says.

However, there are some difficulties with finishing lambs inside, not least the risk of lameness caused by the build up of dung and straw around lambs’ feet.

“We try to combat this by footbathing lambs regularly – normally at least twice a week – and cleaning out sheds every two or three weeks to avoid a build up of manure.”